It Wasn’t A Sequel To Begin With
November 29, 2012 – 18:32 | No Comment

My 3rd novel wasn’t meant to be a sequel to the 2nd novel in the first place. Then something happened. Characters began to beg to be included in the story. Thus, a sequel was born.

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Home » Designing Tips, Media & Arts

Basic Principles of Design

Submitted by on November 15, 2009 – 19:25One Comment

Whether you are an experienced graphic designer or a newbie web designer, a client involved in marketing or a customer at the supermarket, the Basic Principles of Design breathes into your senses in our every day life. Simply because everywhere you go, there is something to be seen. Even the faintest painting or a hanging poster fall into the basic principles of design. It’s just a matter of how much of the principles are these things adhered to. And how much of these principles we, as graphic designers, still remember to apply in our designing process after we left college.

As a designer myself, sometimes I overlook these principles when I am working on a project. It’s so easy to forget, especially when the big idea is creative and exciting to work on. That’s why I have all these principles printed out on a poster-size cardboard hanging behind my monitor as a reference when I am working on designing projects. And more often than not, I discover ways to improve my final artwork especially when it comes to tidying up with final touches just by referring to these principles.

In my observation, there are five basic principles to graphic design, which include Emphasis, Flow, Alignment, Balance and Contrast. Many times I found each principle overlapping one another as enhancements to bring out the very best of a visual layout in the most perfect way. The whole idea is not to be tied down to the principles, rather to let the principles fall in place in the designing process so that we can stay on focus on how much better a design can be based on these principles.

EMPHASIS. It’s important to know what is the one most important thing you want to tell your audience and build the rest of the emphasis based on that. It’s like setting hierarchy to your contents. Decide on the main message and the rest of the elements should support the message and not mislead or confuse it. Having too many focus on too many elements will cause the message to be lost. Once you know exactly how the hierarchy looks like, your visual will now have to emphasize on it. And one of the ways to express that emphasis is through element sizes, font types and placement. The most important element should be boldly presented in a comfortable size that makes it the focus point of the entire artwork layout. That way, your main message will not be hidden among other elements or compete with other elements to stand out.

FLOW. After you know what to focus on, you need to ensure that your visual carries a smooth flow that connects from one element to another – from the most important to the less important. A good flow will enable the audience to grasp the complete picture you are painting for them. This includes the way an artwork is being read, seen and viewed. Normally, a person would read from top to bottom and left to right. That’s why a right aligned body copy is rarely found, it’s because our eyes would feel distracted in the reading process and we may stop reading the words after the first few lines. Always bear in mind how a visual will be read and improve on the flow to ensure a smooth reading process.

ALIGNMENT. Many people overlook this principle by designing artwork layout based on what looks nice and not what looks neat. Having said that, neat does not necessarily means ugly; it just means proper comfortable beauty. That’s why the Creative Adobe Suite has guidelines as part of its feature in all of its software. The key to perfect alignment is unification, which can be achieved by using the guides provided in Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. The more unified things are aligned, the more effective a message can be sent across. It’s like creating a square with blocks. If elements are not aligned properly, there will be additional blocks jutting out from the square. And that is bad alignment.

BALANCE. It’s like balancing a ruler over an eraser; the whole idea is to keep the artwork layout from being lopsided (or in my terms, overweight). The way elements are being distributed in a visual is very important as it would affect the stability of the entire layout. It will not be obvious to the naked eye but an imbalance visual usually causes the reader to feel subconsciously uncomfortable about the final artwork. Some would even slant their head to one side when looking at an imbalance visual. There are two types of balance: Symmetrical Balance and Non-Symmetrical Balance. What it simply means is you can either balance up both side of your design with the same element type and size, or by ensuring that the number of elements on both side are same. One thing to remember, in terms of balance, it’s not only applicable to right and left; it’s also applicable to top and bottom.

CONTRAST. This play an important role after you ensure that your design is balance, well aligned and smooth flowing because the info would be lost without good contrast of all the elements. Imagine using red against orange background, will the message stands out strongly? Or using fonts like Impact (very bold font) and Arial Narrow (very thin font)? Contrast also includes your colour choices, element sizes and font types. The main role that contrast plays is to bring out the emphasis of your design and enhance the impact of it. It’s important to step back and look at your design at the end of the day and ask yourself, “Which element has blended too well with others that it becomes invisible?” and then work on the contrast for that.

I usually refer to this list of principles after I have finished a design. That way, I don’t restrict myself at the beginning of the job. After coming out with the big idea, I refer to these principles to tighten my design and enhance it to be even better. This is something that every experienced designers should do. The more we design, the more we forget the basic principles that make a design effective and impressive. It’s time to refresh our design with professional touches like these.

Originally written by Gina Yap Lai Yoong © 2009

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